The Braves entered this season ranked 23rd in the Majors in team payroll – extraordinarily penurious for them, especially given the fact that so much of that payroll was dead money, paid to players gone and better off forgotten.
Yet, here they are, into the second half of their schedule not exactly competitively destitute. They are getting solid, if unspectacular, returns for their salary dollars.
In fact, if only they determined the standings on a bottom-line business basis – say, payroll dollars per victory – the Braves would be even more in the mix in the National League East.
Leading the way at this point would be the Mets at $2.41 million per victory, followed by the Braves at $2.44 million per win.
But, of course, sports does not adhere to any normal business model. Thus, have the Nationals, with their exotic starting staff and their $165 million payroll taken their expected place atop the NL East. Even if each victory has come at a price of $3.58 million per.
And not a single fan in the nation’s capital will bemoan the cost inefficiencies. Why, that’s just business as usual in that city.
Currently, the young Houston Astros are getting the biggest bang for their payroll bucks (just $1.48 million per victory).
The deep-pocket Los Angeles Dodgers are paying dearly for their lead in the NL West ($5.93 million per victory).
We like to celebrate the smaller market/smaller spending franchises when they surprisingly contend. But as is so often the case, if you throw enough money at a season, eventually there will be a postseason payoff.
Presumably the Braves and their formless owners, Liberty Media, will get into the nine-figure payroll business again, in time to draw the curious to the new Cobb stadium.
In the meantime, they at least can be content with the knowledge that they are pretty much getting what they paid for.